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Ex-Officer Charged With Second-Degree Manslaughter In Daunte Wright Killing; Defense Pushes Theory That Carbon Monoxide From Squad Car May Have Contributed To Floyd's Death; The Daily Beast: Venmo Payment Records Link Rep. Matt Gaetz's Indicted Associate Joel Greenberg To Dozens Of Young Women. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired April 14, 2021 - 21:00   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, Anderson, thank you very much.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

The ex-officer, who killed 20-year-old Daunte Wright, was charged today with second-degree murder - manslaughter, sorry, second-degree manslaughter. It was a quick decision. The question is, was it the right decision?

Now, a jury will take to court, and will decide whether or not second- degree manslaughter is found by the facts and law in this situation. That is in a court of law.

There is also a court of public opinion. And that may play out as early as tonight. Protesters have gathered again for a fourth straight night in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. So far, it is calm, and that is good.

The lawyer for the Wright family says they appreciate the pursuit of justice, but added this was no accident, and that nothing will bring back their son.

Now, if we look at the criminal complaint, against Potter, it accuses her of culpable negligence, creating unreasonable risk, consciously taking a chance of causing death or great bodily harm. Now, that squares with the lowest level of homicide charges, which is criminally negligent homicide.

It says that Potter was a field training officer, when she, and another cop, pulled over Wright, in a traffic stop. That means the officer doing the teaching, made a mistake that many still can't fathom. Why Potter made that mistake is the biggest unknown here.

The next unknown we also find in the complaint, and that goes to what provoked the arrest. The other officer, not Potter, it says, determined Wright had a warrant out for his arrest, stemming from a case involving Wright carrying a handgun without a permit, and fleeing from a Peace Officer.

Now, at trial, the warrant could play a factor in any affirmative defense, meaning an explanation, if the defense decides to give one. Did Potter know about the outstanding warrant? Is that why she made the decision that she made? Is that why she shot Daunte Wright? There is no mention in the complaint on this point.

And remember, she was not the officer, who supposedly discovered the warrant. So what may this case come down to? We're going to go to ask the prosecutor in the very high-profile Freddie Gray case, in just moments.

But I have a reminder for you tonight. If it gets hot, and it may, because many in Wright's community are complaining that this was the lowest charge available, and it likely was, I ask the White majority to see why these people, White and Black, young and old, are in the streets. And if they do become violent, of course, it's wrong. Of course, riots are not protests. But please don't stop there. Not this time.

We just saw the worst riot in recent history, declared an act of terror, killed, maimed and injured over 100 police. It was on January 6th, a Trump mob, went hunting for Congress, arguably at a former president's direction.

And yet what did we see there? A lot of White people, including an entire TV network, were committed to playing down an insurrection of the U.S. Capitol, to look beyond, look at the anger, behind the actions of that Trump mob. And what was behind January 6th? A lie, a big lie.

Will those people do the same here, because here, people are outraged about the truth. This country does remain a Tale of Two Cities.

Will these people get federal lawmakers and fops on Fox saying "Well, they were angry, but they didn't all have guns. It isn't that bad. You have to remember that they're upset about real things."

We need to see the injustice that has the people on the street desperate for help and hope. And I hope you do, because only the majority can force the changes that will rid us of systemic inequality that will improve policing for police and residents.

And yet, in the reaction to the charge, many in the majority are pointing out that "The officer made a mistake. Now, this only happened because Daunte Wright did not comply."

Does he not get to make a mistake? Is it the officer, the one trained to deal with the anxiety of a stop? So, this will be decided in court. But there's a much bigger conversation. And we need to answer those questions as urgently as any question we face.

So now, let's go to the streets, where we find the loudest voices desperately seeking answers. CNN's Sara Sidner is in Brooklyn Center.

How is it shaping up tonight?


SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Crowd is large, not as large as last night, but this still early.

I'll give you a look at what's happening here at Brooklyn Center.

And you were talking about the charges. Again, as we talked about last night, together, Chris, people are acutely aware of the justice system. And the way that they see it, and their idea of justice, is not always the same idea of justice, as the system has in place.

And so, the reason why you're seeing a lot of folks out here is because this isn't the first time. And they all feel this won't be the last time that an officer kills someone, who is unarmed, and particular, someone who was Black and unarmed.

I'll give you a look at the scene here. I want you to see how close they are. This is the fence that's been erected just because of the protests. You can see the concrete barrier. You can see the officers back there in riot gear. And behind them are members of the National Guard.

You can also see, if you can pull up there, you can see the very top of their precinct here. You can see officers at the top of the building.

And every now and then you'll see a water bottle thrown over. Every now and then you might see a rock thrown over, from the protesters' side, into the police side. And then you will see a response.

And that response is pepper spray. That response is gas, tear gas. But eventually that response is - and I can tell they've already sprayed some pepper spray, excuse me, because it lingers in the air for a while.

Rubber bullets have been fired. We saw someone who had been hit by a rubber bullet. And those things really sting. They can injure you very badly. We know journalists in some of these protests, in years past, lost an eye. So, it's not they are less than lethal. But it doesn't mean they can't maim you.

Then you will eventually see if - it's been like every other night, the police come out, and start pushing people away, in huge numbers. We expect to see that very same thing tonight. But the curfew is at 10 P.M. local time, a 11 P.M. Eastern Time. And we will see how it unfolds.

Often, these protests are peaceful, for hours, hours on end. And a lot of people don't want to talk about that. But that is the truth. It is in the late hours of the night that you usually see folks getting very frustrated. And you see a whole sort of turn towards throwing things at police and becoming more violent in the evening.


CUOMO: All right, Sara, thank you very much for setting the stage. As always, you let me know if we need to get back to you. I'll come right away. Manslaughter in the second degree, is that the right charge? Our first guest is a prosecutor, who's put multiple police officers on trial. You may remember Baltimore City's State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, from the infamous Freddie Gray case in 2015. Her office brought serious charges against the six officers involved in Gray's arrest.

Her announcement of charges was met with jubilation from the demanding justice. Gray died from a severe spinal cord injury, suffered while in custody, and his death set off widespread protests, and fueled the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Mosby, though, at trial, ultimately failed to get any convictions in the case. So, she knows well, the challenges of prosecuting cases like this, and we welcome her to PRIME TIME now.

It's good to see you, Counselor.


CUOMO: So, what do you make of the charge in this case?

MOSBY: So, without having all of the information, you have witness statements, not seeing all of the body-worn cameras, and all of the officers, I think that the charge, at this point, is rather appropriate. What we have is second-degree manslaughter, which is basically criminal negligent homicide.

The prosecutor is alleging that in the criminal complaint that Officer Potter negligently failed to use reasonable care, and created an unreasonable risk that resulted in Daunte Wright's death, and likely considered several factors.

Officer Potter was a senior 26-year veteran, field training officer, whose occupation clearly carries with it a tremendous responsibility, which includes engaging and responding and de-escalating difficult situations without resorting to deadly force.

Officer Potter's inability to distinguish her Taser from her gun is the negligence that the prosecutor will claim created the unreasonable risk to Daunte's life.

So, as a 26-year police veteran that trained officers, and was actually training an officer at that point, she should have been, and this will be the argument, she should have been able to distinguish the different placement of her gun, which is usually placed on an officer's dominant side, versus the placement of her Taser, which is placed on officer's non-dominant side.


The argument will be that as a 26-year police veteran that was training the officers, in that moment, she was the only one that went for a Taser, and she should have known how to distinguish a Taser, which is intentionally designed in color, and in look, and in feel, from a gun. And finally, if I was a prosecutor in this case, I would argue that even the act of utilizing a Taser, in a traffic stop, created an unreasonable risk of bodily injury and harm that depending on that person could have resulted in serious bodily injury or death.

I think the greater sort of question is Daunte Wright, is alleged to have had an outstanding misdemeanor warrant. And we, as a country, should be asking why this type of overly aggressive policing, where the officer intends to even use a Taser, in a minor traffic offense, why this, without it presenting an imminent threat, why this is acceptable?

CUOMO: Let me jump ahead in the analysis for one second.

If the defendant were to argue, at trial, "Oh, I knew what the other officer pulled up. And when I saw that it was a warrant, for him, possessing a handgun, and fleeing, that's why I was as aggressive as I was. I thought maybe he was going for a gun, when he got back into the car," does that hold weight?

MOSBY: So, I mean, what's going to happen in this case is what happens in every case.

The defense strategy in this case will be the same as it is right now in the Chauvin trial, which is to stigmatize and to criminalize the victim, in order to justify the excessive use of force.

In the Chauvin trial, despite the murder being depicted on camera, the defense strategy, in the Wright trial, will likely be to stigmatize and criminalize the victim, and blame him for his own death.

This was done in the killings of Freddie Gray. This was done in Sandra Bland. This was done with Philando Castile. This was done in Mike Brown, and so many others.

Again, the larger sort of question is why we, from a policing and cultural perspective, have an expectation that police have to respond or should be responding to every social ill of society.

CUOMO: Counselor, to those who say, "I can't believe they only gave her the lowest homicide charge they could," do you see any one, above this, in terms of severity being available to the prosecutor? And do you think there was a chance that he could have not charged homicide here?

MOSBY: So, I mean, it's really difficult to say without seeing, again, I don't have all of the evidence at my disposal. I know that with first-degree murder, there would have to be the actual intent--

CUOMO: Right.

MOSBY: --to have killed that person. And I don't think that it rises to that level.

However, the prosecutor is the one with the best knowledge. And based upon the information that is publicly available, I think that the charges, right now, second-degree manslaughter is appropriate.

Again, I think that one of the things that we should be evaluating, and we must acknowledge is that when we criminalize these minor offenses that have nothing to do with public safety, we're exposing people to needless interaction with law enforcement that for Black people in this country, often lead to a death sentence. And so, that's the greater question that we should be looking to reform.

CUOMO: And look, Daunte Wright wasn't supposed to flee the traffic stop. But many are very quick to point out that the officer made a mistake, that she may not have intended, this kind of outcome. They don't give that to Daunte Wright that--

MOSBY: Correct.

CUOMO: --he made a mistake in running. And this is, again, to make your point, this was about an outstanding warrant, for not showing up for a hearing--


CUOMO: --and an underlying complaint, that he had a gun without a permit, and ran, when he was asked for it. And now, we are here.

Prosecutor, Counselor, thank you, very much, for your insight on this. I appreciate you, Marilyn Mosby.

MOSBY: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, take care.

Justice, fairness, under law, we're supposed to have our eyes on the trial for George Floyd. It was never supposed to be that during this moment, we would have a parallel moment.

And as Mosby was just referring to, yes, the defense is doing what happens in these cases, which is all kinds of theories, that this is really about George Floyd, who he was, how he acts, and what was wrong with his body. "Heart disease, maybe this was about carbon monoxide," how? I'll spell it out for you.

These are alternate theories. But remember, it's just about one, one juror. He or she says "Well maybe that makes almost as much sense because I don't get what was happening here," and just like that, you've got a hung jury.

Let's bring in a former Assistant Attorney General, next.



CUOMO: Jurors in the George Floyd murder trial heard from a single witness today, a retired forensic pathologist, brought in by the defense, to point to everything else except for Derek Chauvin as the cause of Floyd's death. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. DAVID FOWLER, DEFENSE EXPERT WITNESS/RETIRED FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: We have a heart that's vulnerable because it's too big.

There are certain drugs that are present in his system that make it - put it at risk of any arrhythmia.

We've got the carbon monoxide, which has a potential to rob some of the additional oxygen-carrying capacity.

ERIC NELSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Is it your opinion that Mr. Chauvin's knee, in any way, impacted the structures of Mr. Floyd's neck?

FOWLER: No, it did not. None of the vital structures--


FOWLER: --were in the area, where the knee, appear to be, from the videos.



CUOMO: Let's bring in former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams, joining me right now.

We heard something today we had not heard before, carbon monoxide. This is an extension of an argument that because Floyd was situated near the tailpipe of one of the cruisers, that was running, apparently, at the time, maybe that had something to do with it.

The prosecution took it on. Here was the cross.


JERRY BLACKWELL, PROSECUTOR: You haven't seen any data, or test results that showed Mr. Floyd had a single injury from carbon monoxide. Is that true?

FOWLER: That is correct because it was never sent to the laboratory for that test.

BLACKWELL: I just simply asked you whether it - I asked you whether it was true, sir. Yes or no?

FOWLER: It is true.

BLACKWELL: Did you see any air monitoring data that actually would give you any information as to what amount of carbon monoxide, if any, would have been in Mr. Floyd's breathing zone?

FOWLER: No, because it was not tested.

BLACKWELL: It was a yes-or-no question. You haven't seen any, have you?

FOWLER: I have not seen any data.


CUOMO: This becomes an expert, speculating on the presence of carbon monoxide, because of the proximity of the tailpipe, and that they - that may be a contributing factor to why all of this was about something other than the knee on the neck.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: Chris, let's use a legal term right now. And that witness got his ass handed to him on cross-examination. There is no other way to look at it.

Look, in the law, experts are the few - are one of the very few types of witnesses, who can testify, as to their opinions about things. Most witnesses are called to testify as to "This is what I saw. This is what I heard, I was a bystander." Experts, on account of their education, training, experience and background, can testify as to their professional opinions.

The problem is that when you put an expert on the stand, he's got to be the smartest guy in the room, smarter than the judge, smarter than the jury, smarter than the prosecutor, and his central findings can't be picked apart like that. It is devastating to a case to put a witness on, and have that happen to him.

So number one, this whole question of whether Floyd's blood was even tested is pretty devastating, if you're trying to make the argument that there's carbon monoxide in his blood.

And also, Chris, later on, in that back-and-forth, with Jerry Blackwell, the prosecutor, there's this question of "Well, did you even know whether the car was a hybrid or not, and so, what kind of emissions? You didn't test the car."

So really, he's testifying as to matters he didn't know about, and didn't have a background in, and it just wasn't good for the defense.

CUOMO: I don't even know that they established that the car was on, the whole time.


CUOMO: But in what you're laying out there, in Latin, the glutum mannum toum (ph), having your ass handed to you--


CUOMO: --is that tactically, OK, we get it. And yet you cannot underestimate the exposure of various theories, on a jury, if one or more are of the disposition of not thinking that the prosecution's case makes enough sense.

What do you think is the level of concern based on what's been laid out--


CUOMO: --that you could have some stragglers on that jury, who are like, "I'm not sure. I mean, this was - this guy was a complicated profile."

WILLIAMS: Yes. Look, you never know what jurors are going to do. They surprise all of us.

And frankly, any of these theories could be plausible. Carbon monoxide, were it not blown out of the water today, could have been a plausible theory, for poking holes, in the prosecution's case, heart disease, or Fentanyl, or whatever.

The problem is there's this 9-minute video that the defense isn't really dealing with right now.

CUOMO: Right.

WILLIAMS: If you notice today, the expert testimony, walked through all of these various factors, but didn't talk about the one big factor, which is that the entire jury, and frankly, everyone in America, saw this 9-minute video. And it's just a difficult--

CUOMO: Well they'll bring it back--


CUOMO: They're going to bring it back in close. It's going to be a big part.

WILLIAMS: Of course.

CUOMO: For the prosecutor.

I wonder if we won't be talking, at some point, in the future, of how big a mistake it was, for the defense, to bring up the prior arrest, because yes, you do see George Floyd, acting very much the way he was when he was stopped here. And yes, drugs were in the air again, in terms of the discussion.

He didn't die there. He didn't have all these heart irregularities. And you notice what the cop did. He didn't need a knee on his neck, to control the situation. I think that will be a factor. But also, the idea of the obvious, and what it was.

And today, even on the stand, that retired forensic expert, as a doctor, agreed with prosecutors, that at a minimum, the officers here should have applied emergency assistance to Floyd a lot sooner. Their own expert agreed with it.

Elliot, I got to jump.



CUOMO: But thank you for breaking down the obvious here. This is another step in this fight for justice. We'll see what happens next.

WILLIAMS: Thanks, Chris.

CUOMO: The trial, of course, is not just about what's happening in court. And that's not to say that the courtroom should be corrupted. But racial injustice is real. And that brings us to the main question. OK, we'll see what happens in the Floyd verdict. We'll see what happens in the Wright verdict.

Does that make it less likely that things get this bad again? No, right? So what would bring substantial change? Next.


CUOMO: Communal pain in Black communities, when it comes to deadly police encounters, is real. And it runs deep. And it's not because they just see it in the media. It's because they see it in their families. They see it in their communities. The connections help paint the picture of why.


As we watched the Wright and Floyd families connect, over such similarly tragic losses, we learned that George Floyd's girlfriend knew Daunte Wright. "The Washington Post" reports she was a Dean at the high school where he was once a student. Now she's mourning another loss.

Several states away, another tie. It turns out Caron Nazario, the Army officer, pepper-sprayed, in Virginia, remember, the one with his hands that were up, during the traffic stop, it turns out that he is related to Eric Garner from New York City. Garner's dying words, we all know by now, "I can't breathe."

Van Jones joins me now.

Now, we know what the pushback is. "Yes, all right, they're in the same community. They knew each other. I got you. Oh, yes, maybe a couple related. Yes, I remember this. Fred Hampton and Emmett Till had a connection as well. These are coincidences. These don't explain any kind of real perverse feelings about policing."

What are people missing when they don't see this?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I mean, first of all, when you have a community that has so much pain packed into it, these kind of ricochets of connection are inevitable.

In other words, people forget, the Black community, we're only about 11 percent, 12 percent of the whole country. We make a lot of noise. We got a strong culture. But we're a very small group. The Latino community is bigger than we are. Asian community's catching up. But look at, how many funerals. Look at how many funerals, in that one

community. Sometimes, it's us, doing it to ourselves, sometimes, it's the police, sometimes, it's the healthcare system. But look at how many funerals, look at how much pain, this one community has to bear.

And so, it is not surprising at all. In fact, it's inevitable that such a small community, and especially you talked about, you know, in the Twin Cities, that such a small community would have so many connections of hope and love, but also of pain.

CUOMO: People on the street, in Brooklyn Center, who were complaining, saying "I can't believe they gave her the minimum. I can't believe they gave this police officer the minimum," I had Marilyn Mosby on, who became famous for the Freddie Gray prosecution that resulted in stronger charges, but no convictions--

JONES: Right.

CUOMO: --said that this is what it looks like it's supposed to be, on the facts. What do you say to people who say "No, we wanted more?"

JONES: Yes, well, listen, what you don't want is, and I'm sure Marilyn Mosby would agree, what you don't want is to charge something that you can't then bring a victory home for. And so, unfortunately, we are operating inside of this box of a system that constrains hands.

And I think prosecutors have to make sure that first of all, that they're meeting their own ethical requirements, not to overcharge. We're sick of them overcharging in our communities.

I mean, it's so amazing, Chris, to watch the difference. In the community, they hit you with 27 different charges, and then you just have to plead down from there.

But when it's a police officer, they're super, super respectful. They're careful. They don't want to add one extra charge, one extra overdue library book, parking ticket, no, nothing. It's got to be perfect against the police. That is what people get upset about.

They're not saying they want an unjust treatment for the police. But they're saying, "We're seeing people in the community level, getting massive charges for small things, and then we're seeing cops getting small charges for massive things," and they just can't stand the hypocrisy.

At the same time, as Marilyn Mosby said, if you're in that prosecutor's chair, if you're a Keith Ellison, who's a great Attorney General that, frankly saved the whole state, by taking this case on himself, and getting it prosecuted, you've got to do it 100 percent the right way, because, you don't want to bring home a loss to the community, and then have that extra pain inflicted. You want to be able to bring forth something that will work. But the hypocrisy stinks.

CUOMO: How do you get a majority to want to fight for the changes that affect the minority? JONES: But the thing about it is, that's the mistake is that this is - this affects everybody because it's one country.

And here's the deal. Once you have any out-of-control system, once you have a big, unaccountable bureaucracy, where people can get away with stuff, they start getting away with more and more.

So what you - we're the canary in the coal mine community. We're the community that if anything bad is going to happen it's going to happen to us first. We're going to get it first and worst. If you protect us, you never have to worry about anything else.

If the Black communities are all right, trust me, everybody else is going to be OK. But if you let things get out of hand with us, and eventually, it comes to your door. And so, that's why I think Congress needs to act now.

Karen Bass, the Congresswoman from California, has been leading an effort, on the House side, to try to bring people back together, to get something done. Tim Scott, Black Republican, on the Senate side, has been trying to get something done.

The big data we have right now is at least everybody's paying attention. You may have different opinions, but there is some stuff we can agree on.

I think everybody now can agree that these chokeholds need to be banned, at the federal level. That still has not happened.


I think people would agree that you have a duty to intervene, as a cop, if you see a police officer, violating the law, and training and policy. At the federal level, that's not even happened.

I think most people would say, "If you got a cop like Chauvin, who has not one, not two, not three, not four, not 10, but 15, complaints, he should at least be in a registry, so everybody knows what you're dealing with." That's not in federal law, either.

So, while we're all looking at one case, in one courtroom, Congress is sitting there, not getting anything done. Karen Bass trying to make it happen, Tim Scott trying to make it happen, but everybody, right now, at the Congressional level, can we at least do something about this stuff we all agree on?

You may not agree on everything, in this case, but there's some stuff that's just a stench in the nostrils of God about these policing practices. Let's move now and get something done. All this pain with no progress, it's going to make things worse, Chris.

CUOMO: It's just - the open question is what's going to get the lawmakers, who are so quick to say about January 6th, "Hey, they didn't even have guns. I don't think it was that bad," when will, that, start to apply to people outside their own bubble?

Van, I got to jump. Thank you for the wisdom. And I hope the audience is listening.

So, what is the annoying question in the Daunte Wright? "How? How? How did you mistake a Glock for a Taser? You are a training officer. You're a long-time vet." I really wish the officer had included that in her resignation letter.

Now the question is, is this a one-off, like what do we know about accidents in policing? It's happened before, this Taser mix up. But there is context that you need to know, and I have it for you, next.



CUOMO: So, let's focus on the big question, in the death of Daunte Wright. How, how does this happen?




POTTER: Oh my (BLEEP)! I just shot him!


CUOMO: A police officer mistaking a gun for a Taser is something that shouldn't happen by design. But it does happen.

In 2015, in Tulsa, when Eric Harris was killed, listen.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh! I shot him. I'm sorry.


CUOMO: "I shot him. I'm sorry."

In Oakland, in 2009, Oscar Grant was killed by a police officer at the Fruitvale train station.

"The New York Times" has reviewed 15 of these so-called weapon confusion cases over 20 years. The numbers break down like this. Five of the officers were indicted. Three were convicted. The other two are still pending.

Now, for context, keep in mind, most years, we have about 1,000 deadly police shootings. The arrest rate is usually around 1 percent, 2 percent of cases. The numbers don't explain the "How." So, how does a trained professional mistake one of these, a Glock 9 millimeter, for one of these, a Taser? We don't know the exact model of either that Kim Potter was carrying.

But what we do know is that what happened in Brooklyn Center is exactly why officers are trained to holster their side arm like this, on their dominant side. For Kim Potter, that would be her right-hand side.

The Taser goes on the other side, often in what they call a cross-draw position, so that the officer has to reach around their body to grab it. It's not just the side of the body. The safety, OK, to release the trigger, is in a different spot, on a Glock and a Taser.

A Glock is also heavier than a Taser. Tasers are often bright yellow, so that everyone involved knows what's being used. That's also why the Brooklyn Center PD's policy manual states, "All Taser devices shall be clearly and distinctly marked to differentiate them from the duty weapon and any other device."

But in looking at it, there is a central fallacy, at the heart of the whole situation. It's this idea that Taser or gun is a binary choice for officers. In fact, a 2019 study of the Chicago Police Department found no evidence that cops ever pulled a Taser instead of a gun.

Hard numbers on police use-of-force are a mess. Too many departments don't even report it to the Feds. The data, we do have, shows, the use of a Taser leads to the use of a gun more often than one replaces the other. In short, we don't know that Tasers being introduced into the arsenal have made things less-deadly.

So, answering the question of how this happens is going to require another look at all the things on a police officer's belt, the gun, the Taser, nightstick, pepper spray, and really examine whether more is turning out to be better.

Now tonight, CNN has uncovered details on another story revolving around Congressman Matt Gaetz. Gaetz has trouble.

It's not just a coincidence his buddy, Greenberg, has been talking to the Feds for a long time, as we have said on this show, for a long time. That's where they're getting their case from. They're not developing things about Greenberg and Gaetz. They're getting stuff from Greenberg, about Gaetz.

And now, we know a lot more about what they were doing together, and apart, and what women, who attended some of their parties, have to say. There's another breaking news report on this, just ahead.



CUOMO: There's new reporting tonight from "The Daily Beast" that shows a lot more payments by Matt Gaetz's so-called wingman to a network of women, this, on the heels of, two women telling CNN, about sex and drug-filled parties that the Congressman attended.

One of the women showed CNN digital receipts for payment. This kind of paper trail and pattern are going to matter to federal investigators looking into the Florida Congressman.

Keep in mind, the Feds probably already have this, as Greenberg's attorney told the judge last week, he would likely be taking a plea deal. If you're getting the deal, that means you cooperated, and federal prosecutors are getting ready to act on the cooperation material.

We should also remind you the Congressman has denied ever paying for sex, and denied, as an adult, having sex with an underage girl. In fact, he's repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Let's bring in "The Daily Beast" Reporter, who helped break the story, Jose Pagliery, and former FBI Special Agent, Asha Rangappa, to help us make sense.

Good to have you both.


CUOMO: So Jose, the story has been this, up until now. "Yes, yes, Greenberg's a bad guy. Yes, I know him. You don't have any of this stuff that you have on him on me." Now, what do we know?

PAGLIERY: Well, this is interesting because one of the things that we know is that we now have one particular transaction, from a sitting congressman, with a love hotel emoji.

Now, if you've - if you've used Venmo, you know that you're supposed to make a payment, and then say what it's for, in the memo line. And, in this case, we've got a love hotel emoji, and $300 going to his buddy, Joel Greenberg.


But we've independently confirmed that actually that very night, Joel Greenberg did book a hotel reservation, at a luxury hotel, in the Orlando area. And it was for two adults, no kids. So, there was something there.

CUOMO: What do you - CNN hasn't confirmed that yet. But what are you seeing that you believe, causes the most troubling connections for Gaetz with investigators, Jose?

PAGLIERY: Well, look, Joel Greenberg was Matt Gaetz's buddy. And what we've been hearing from sources is that yes, there was a relationship there, where Matt Gaetz would rely on Joel Greenberg to get access to these women.

But what we gather now is all of these Venmo payments, hundreds of Venmo payments, with thousands of dollars, to more than a dozen young women. And these are very, very telling, because they date back to 2017, and they are all over the place. The memos that describe what these Venmos are for are really telling. They are very explicit.

And so, we really have to ask ourselves, what a married father, of two kids, in Orlando, was doing, paying all of these young women, while also maintaining a relationship, a friendship with Matt Gaetz, while also getting money from Matt Gaetz, with memos that were also pretty indicative?

CUOMO: So Asha, Greenberg's got trouble. That's no secret. That's why he's cooperating, has been cooperating, for a long time. And you see the echo effect, in what they say, they're looking at, with Gaetz. This is all derivative of Greenberg.

But in making a case against Gaetz, if you can't tie him to the underaged woman, that they have Greenberg on, which is why he's probably cooperating, does this run the risk of just coming down to, at worst, a prosecution case?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT, LECTURER, YALE UNIVERSITY: Yes. So, there's a couple of different angles here. Greenberg is useful to investigators because he can explain the meaning and context behind the documentary evidence that they have.

So, we just heard about these Venmo payments, these emojis, the different reasons that were given. I think one was like salad or something like that, for $1,000. But Greenberg can narrate this evidence. He can talk about what was going on, what it was for, where it had occurred, and give meaning to that.

The problem is, is that Greenberg is not necessarily a credible witness, standing alone. This guy is facing 33 pending charges. So, he has a lot of incentive to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

And, on the stand, it could be a "He said, He said." But this is where some of the other reporting that has come out, about these parties, these WhatsApp chat, come into play.

Because this gives investigators a list of other potential witnesses, to these activities, to the parties, to the women that these men were around, who can corroborate Greenberg's testimony, if he describes all of the activities that are going on. And I think that's where investigators and prosecutors can build the case against Gaetz.

CUOMO: If they had a case, what's taking so long?

RANGAPPA: Well, it takes a while. I mean, the DoJ isn't going to charge someone, unless they, A, have all the evidence that they need, to prove the crime, and B, they are sure that they can get a conviction.

So, if Greenberg just started cooperating, they're going to get all the information they can with from him, and they're going to follow--

CUOMO: He's been cooperating a while. He's been cooperating--

RANGAPPA: Yes. And they're going to also follow--

CUOMO: --a while.

RANGAPPA: --all the leads that he's providing.

Let's also remember, Chris that federal investigations have a tendency to snowball. If we just look at Greenberg, his investigation started out about stalking. That turned into an investigation into identity theft. That turned into an investigation into sex trafficking.

So, as investigators uncover evidence, it could give them, leads, into other potential violations, and they are going to follow those to their logical conclusion. So, I think it really depends on what they are uncovering, and especially if they are looking at financial trails, that, paper trails--

CUOMO: Right.

RANGAPPA: --they may be looking at leads for other violations. And they also need to, as I mentioned, interview a lot of different witnesses, in order to bolster their case.

CUOMO: One more quick thing for each of you.

For you, Asha, the idea that in looking at this, with Gaetz, that you don't give somebody a plea deal, like Greenberg, if he doesn't give you information that is equal or greater about somebody else. Does that still hold true?


CUOMO: OK. Thank you.

And Jose, that this is no longer about one, two, three, women that the field of people and the players here is expanding exponentially, is that true?

PAGLIERY: That's right. And these women are - look, this is worth mentioning.


While we were investigating this, a lot of these women started going dark, they started disconnecting from each other, on Venmo, and on Instagram, and making their accounts private, even though we haven't mentioned them, we haven't exposed them, yet, right?

And some of them are actually now disconnected from Matt Gaetz. So we know that they're creating that distance. There is some distance being created, even though their identities are not public yet.

And we should note that one of these people is Matt Gaetz's ex- girlfriend, who herself, had her iPhone seized by federal agents, sometime over the holidays.

And so, if we're asking ourselves, why it's taking so long, it's because investigators are still digging, and doing these interviews, and getting to the people, who actually know what was going on.

CUOMO: Right. So CNN hasn't confirmed that, but there are a lot of people doing the digging here. And sometimes the evidence is in inaction, or in response, you know, Matt Gaetz losing people who were connected to him on Venmo, why? Why did they disconnect?

Jose Pagliery, thank you for the digging. Asha Rangappa, thank you for the better mind. Well, you both have better minds. So, I thank you both for that.

We'll be right back.

PAGLIERY: Thank you.


CUOMO (on camera): All right, people are on the streets of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. But so far there is nothing approaching anything like violence. So, thank you for watching the coverage. We'll pick up with "CNN TONIGHT" and its star, D. Lemon.